Sun’s Strong Immortality
Sun’s Strong Immortality was the first novel I wrote, and a long job I made of it: Fifty years. But then I had to get it right. I wanted to be a hammock book, meant to be read inside that perfect summer day when you relax in dappled shade, turn off your phone, and pick up a beer. In fact SSI was conceived in a hammock. At age fourteen, I was in my parents’ yard beneath a blossoming apple tree, engrossed in a pulp periodical. I flipped its pages, and saw – a poem?! In a sci-fi mag? But I recognized the author, and I read it.
Poul Anderson wrote Ballade of an Artificial Satellite shortly after Sputnik I went into orbit. With his permission, I’ve used it as a frontispiece in my three Alphan novels. It gave me the name of my protagonist, Prince Andros; and it got me thinking: Who is this guy? What does he look like? Where did he come from, what does he do, and how did he get to here from there?
In answering those questions, in imagining Andros and his world, I was helped along by music. I’d hear Stravinsky and see a man afloat in interstellar space, tearing open a crippled starship with his bare hands. Or a beautiful young woman, a deathless unmarked corpse like Sleeping Beauty, called to her wakening. A whale-professor, a chef who cooked with ray guns — What were these deep images, sprung from rhythm and melody? What could they mean?
When I looked into it, I found something like this that had been done before. The French poet Rimbaud wrote Illuminations, a series of fantastical tableaux, in the 1890s – triremes on flowery seas, stars dripping honey, and the like – and decades later Benjamin Britten set these to music. But I didn’t want to write stand-alones. I decided to package my images together in a novel: one with such strong characters, so persuasive a plot, that readers would accept my scenes unquestioningly. I’d slip ’em visions like a shiv between the ribs.
And that’s the origin of my trilogy. Book One, Sun’s Strong Immortality, is accessible via this site and Amazon. Book Two, The Fifth Evangelist, is in draft. Its print editions will reveal the music that inspired certain scenes; E-versions may have this music imbedded. Book Three, Grey Spirit, is being written. Stay tuned.